Design process: in search of a method

After the trauma of Top Drawer, I have thrown myself into design with the online course: Make It In Design Winter School 2018. The first creative brief is to design a ‘bright and bold bloom pattern.’ Key words to help prompt and inspire the design process include:

Bright,  Blooms,  Ditsy,  Retro,  Bold,  Intense,  Overcrowded,  Graphic,  Stylised,  Layered.

Bright, bold and graphic I think I can manage. Distsy, retro and overcrowded? Hmmm. But hey, it’s all about stepping out of your comfort zone (or so they say), so off I went ….

Now it’s recently come to my attention that I’m becoming decidedly more confident in the way I put pen to paper; I’m less precious about drawing and mark-making; I’m going with the flow. As a result, the process has become altogether more fluid.



Translating my drawings into actual patterns through layout and colour though … that, I find quite the challenge. Even when I’ve decided on a colour palette, and have all my motifs ready to go …. well, nothing seems to go together; there’s no cohesion. Sometimes I don’t even know where to start. That’s just what happened here:

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 12.51.04


So I thought I’d try another tack: layering. After all, that’s how we apply paint to a canvas, makeup to a face … why not patterns to an Adobe Illustrator file? These inexcusably bad quality screenshots illustrate what happened next (you get the gist):


It’s not a method I’ve used before, but it did make the whole process more manageable and less daunting. The outcome is interesting, and not like anything I’ve designed to date. (Stepping outside comfort zone: tick) I’m yet to figure out if it’s ‘my style’, or the start of a new ‘my style’ (??!), but I think at least it’s ticked the Bright Blooms brief:


Courage to Conquer

Earlier this week, I deserted the cozy life of my Somerset bubble, and ventured out to The Big Smoke in the name of research. Top Drawer is ‘London’s international lifestyle event for creative retailers across the U.K. and beyond‘; AKA …. a big massive trade fair where designers can exhibit their newest stuff to flog. I rather thought  I might fancy exhibiting at something like this a bit further down the line. So duly I spent lots of money on train fares and a ’boutique’ hotel (one of those places where you pay extra for a window), just so I could ‘get a feel’ for what goes on at these things.


Naturally I was rather excited. After the obligatory bag rummage courtesy of the G4S brigade, I was hit with a visual sensation; vivid colours, beautiful objects and sensational designs ….. on an industrial scale:


With such greatness came the biggest sensation of being overwhelmed I have ever experienced. In one fell swoop, I lost my ability to talk; smile properly; make eye contact. I was an intruder on the fringes of exposure. I clutched onto my bag as I might an errant child – not for fear of theft, but in lieu of a stress ball (and a triple G&T.) I spent the first hour actively avoiding exhibitors; slightly problematic when there were 1500 of them to contend with. With no foundation, I assumed that a) they’d not be interested in speaking with me once they ascertained I wasn’t a buyer, b) they’d tell me where to go if they found out I was a ‘designer’ on the look out for things to copy. Oh the frustration, when all I wanted to do was just talk with some of them …. about their work, their inspiration, their process. But intimidation got the better of me and I simply didn’t feel  on an equal enough footing to be worthy of anyone’s time; I was just a housewife in need of a reality check, thrown stratospheres from her comfort zone and rendered mute (unless an opportunity to talk ‘family meal-planing’ presented itself. It did not.)

Strong coffee beckoned. As I sat – down-hearted, drained, dejected – I began to write this blog entry (might as well use my time effectively.) Whether it was the act of writing, or the effect of the sugar consumed from a large bag of jelly babies gifted to me by a wonderful friend, I felt my spirits lift… nearly as quickly as they had be thwarted. It was really rather odd. Still, I wasn’t about to let this miracle lay idle. I got up and started again:

Head up: tick

Shoulders back: tick

Teeth exposing smile: tick

Eye contact with other actual human beings: tick

Approaching The Higher Beings (AKA The Real Designers): tick

Beginning conversations with The Higher Beings: TICK!!!


The people I spoke to – turns out – were pretty normal. Stupendously talented, confident, business savvy, crème de la crème …. yes. But when it came down to it, they were just human beings doing what they loved. And wasn’t that what I was too? Maybe at some point on their design journeys they’ve even felt the way I did in that vast space. Who knows. Mostly importantly I achieved my aims of experiencing a trade fair and being  inspired. I’ll take that for now.


The Wanderer returneth!

Returneth I have. Wandered? Not so much (save the obligatory one mile stroll into the village on New Years Day). What is it about the Christmas holidays that renders anything other than cooking, changing bedding, and mediating between offspring, pretty much impossible. Okay; so ‘impossible’ might be a slight exaggeration. To say that chaos reigned king for a month, however, was pretty much reality; a reality which promised to lead me down the path of certain insanity unless something in life got left behind. When it came down to it, the only contenders were work or sleep, so in the interest of self-preservation, I clung on to the latter.

Still, complain I mustn’t; the turkey didn’t poison anyone, no life-altering injuries were sustained, and we actually have some half-decent drinking material leftover. And as if that weren’t enough, my ‘beautiful mugs’ collection has tripled in size (thanks to family and friends), I was introduced to ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (#howdidIneverknowaboutit??!), and I got to watch my niece perform in (an actually half decent) panto. Oh, and my one and only Christmas event – The Christmas Fair – actually wasn’t a disaster!






Yes. I survived The Fair. More than that, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even made a few sales to boot, the first of which was hands down my most memorable to date; from a complete stranger who took one look at my one cushion design, said it would look fabulous in her lounge, asked if she could reserve one for later, and “I’m happy to pay for it now.” I admit I did try to play it cool, but success on this score is debatable; in my rather excitable new designer head I was screaming “I don’t care about the money! You like my stuff!! A complete stranger actually likes my stuff!!! I love you I love you I love you!!!!”

Conversely, when one of my dearest friends came to buy a cushion of the same design, my immediate reaction went something along the lines of: “Really? Are you sure?? You know you really don’t have to, honestly….. really???” Needless to say I have yet to find my happy sales banter middle-ground ….. or at least that of a normal person.

On the plus side, I made a steady stream of sales from my tea towels, and have been left with roughly a third of my stock, which was better than I’d anticipated. The giftwrap gamble didn’t quite pay off. With the amount left over, I had no need to look elsewhere for my giftware requirements; here’s what was positioned under our own tree!




That said, it was absolutely worth doing from a design experience point of view. Plus, it’s one less thing for Santa to have to think about in our house next year ….. or should I say this year?! Holy Moly ….

Finally, before I crack on with what I hope will be an exciting, fun-packed, learning filled 2018 for Cat Christopherson Design, I want to say a big THANKYOU to all the wonderful people – friends, family, even strangers! – who have helped me get this far since I set up last September. I am so very lucky to have such a supportive network of positive people around me. Your support means the world to me.